Yan Wen Chang

- / Cannon Project Wall

Yan Wen Chang investigates and critiques the utopian idea of the American Dream. She raises issues of injustice, inequality, subjugation and the trauma of acculturation of the Dream, as it relates particularly to immigrant life. Having moved to Toronto from Malaysia, alone, at the age of 17, her work addresses her autobiographical experiences of translocation, displacement and found community from the lens of an immigrant to North America. Across time and geographical space - as she refers to the American Dream as a concept that is not defined geographically by the U.S.A., but to one that describes the passion, obsession, desire and sacrifice to translocate to the West as a means of survival and/or a ‘better life’ - her work aims to investigate the opposite, coexisting realities of the American Dream - one that is hopeful and defiant, and the other as hopeless and desperate. same problem my father had and what he dreamed is a poem written by Chang in 2021. Chang references the work of Los Angeles artists Edward Ruscha, John Baldessari and Raymond Pettibond who skillfully use text in their work. Chang used a black Sharpie marker and pieces of blank printing paper as materials to hand write the poem. She then digitally scanned the sheets of printing paper with her original handwriting of the poem to create the design for the billboard. By including her original handwriting and materials, the translation of a personal poem to a public text work retains its urgency, intensity, and authenticity.  In same problem my father had and what he dreamed, Chang uses her personal experiences of the American Dream and makes comparisons and connections to the Dream of her father, who still currently resides in Malaysia, through situating herself as a constant in the poem. Chang is always sitting in the front passenger seat of the car, never the one driving.


about the artist:

Yan Wen Chang (b. 1993) immigrated to Toronto, alone, from Malaysia at the age of 17. Growing up as a young woman in Kuala Lumpur under dangerously patriarchal and corrupt conditions instilled in her an overwhelming desire to escape social and political hardships in her homeland coupled with a resolute determination to achieve a level of success that could not be realized at home. Chang translocated to North America to fulfil both. All the subject matter in her paintings abstract the iconic symbols of the traditional American Dream to express her images as a materialist impulse and a sensitivity to the pure haecceity of each subject. Chang’s paintings are about freedom, intuition, and courage. They are embedded in her paintings by their very existence in their making as these qualities define who she is. Chang is currently a second-year Studio Art MFA Candidate at the School of Fine Art and Music at the University of Guelph. Her upcoming solo exhibitions include General Hardware Contemporary (Toronto), XiR (Toronto) and Susan Hobbs Gallery (Toronto).